STORY BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, PHOTOS BY CHRIS FAULKNOR
See the 15-picture photo gallery of the tour at the end of this story
Expert clock makers flown in from Maine last week determined that Boyne City’s historic 1904 timepiece can be saved.
As was first reported in the Boyne City Gazette, the Boyne City Commission voted 4-0 on Nov. 24 to have the city’s enormous antique 1904 clock, built by E. Howard & Co., examined by Rick and Linda Balzer of Balzer Family Clock Works for just over $4,000.
“We’ve been focusing on the details of how … we make this clock work,” said Ray Kendra of Environment Architects, who is overseeing the design of Boyne City’s new city hall and emergency services facilities… “The good news is that it is a nice piece that we have.”
A tour of the timepiece, led by the Balzers, was held on Wednesday Dec. 9, at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, where the clock is currently stored.
The 111-year-old clock was used in a tower on Park Street until 1951, when the original clock tower was demolished. The clock was later utilized at a former bank in town before ending up in storage in former Boyne City Police Chief John Talboys’ garage since around 1997.
The hope is that the historic clock will be restored and included in the new facilities.
The potential design for the new clock would show the clock face, as well as its bell and inner workings through windows on the structure.
Kendra said a shorter pendulum will be installed on the clock so it will not need a pit. This will also allow viewers to see the pendulum in action.
Kendra said the early idea of locating the clock’s mechanical works in the same area where the firemen hang their hoses will not work due to the potentially damaging moisture levels of such an arrangement.
Kendra said the Balzers will put together an estimate of what it will cost to restore the clock. The proposal should be ready within the next few weeks.
According to the Balzers, they had been contacted by someone in Boyne City in 1997 about having the clock electrified but nothing ever came of the matter.
The Balzers said it was a good thing it was not done then because certain types of powered clocks can easily break.
The Balzers said an alternate means of powering the clock will ensure it lasts much longer.
During the tour, Rick Balzer identified various pieces of the clock and then gave a brief history of tower clocks.
Though a quorum of the Boyne City Commission was present at last week’s meeting, no official action was necessary.
At an earlier meeting concerning the city facilities project, Cain and Kendra said prices to have the clock fixed have been estimated at between $75,000 and $125,000.
To see some of the Balzer Family’s work, go to www.balzerclockworks.com.
Clock history facts
• Tower clocks have been around since the 1300s and some of them are still running.
• The clocks were put as high in the air as they could be so farmers outside town could hear them.
• Early on, there were no dials, just bells chiming on the hour.
• Later on, the hands were added so people could see what time it was in between bell chimes.
• In 1581, Galileo saw a chandelier swinging and he timed it with his heartbeat and made note that it was always swinging at the same rate. He made no connection with clocks at the time.
• But, then, in 1656 Christiaan Huygens discovered pendulums in relation to clocks.
• In 1843, Edward Howard and partners began the E. Howard Company, which built Boyne City’s clock.
• In 1851, Sir Edmund Beckett Denison built Big Ben in London England.
• In 1904, Boyne City ordered the round-top Howard tower clock they have now.
• That clock utilized many of the parts and concepts devised by the aforementioned inventors and scientists.